Intervention on Special Rapporteur Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation,
held by Ms. Shiruzimath Sameer, Representative of the Maldives Delegations to the United Nations
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Maldives is honoured to have this opportunity to respond to Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. We thank the Special Rapporteur for her invaluable work in this area, and in particular for her report to this General Assembly on the right to participation.
We are pleased to join the Special Rapporteur today in acknowledging the right of all people to water, a precious resource, and sanitation, an essential amenity. As a small island state, and indeed as a large ocean state, the Maldives knows of the importance of water in sustaining our people and industries. Climate change is already compromising our vital store of freshwater. Saltwater intrusion poses a threat to the access to potable water. In addition, the prolonging of the dry period affects almost a third of our islands. During this period, these islands depend on the provision of water from the capital.
We understand that it is impossible to develop effective solutions to these challenges without the participation of all those affected. Participation is not only useful for policy-making, but essential. As the Special Rapporteur noted, "participation is a human right", and one that is enshrined in several human rights instruments that the Maldives is a party to. Developing an integrated, participatory approach to water resources management is one of the stated goals of the Maldives, and we stand behind the Special Rapporteur in emphasising its importance.
As the Maldives consolidates its status as a fully-fledged democracy, our people are becoming more aware of their rights to participate in decision-making. Communities are now taking ownership of projects—with great success. Last year, the Ministry of Environment and Energy implemented a ground-breaking Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) project with community participation and involvement. This approach integrates various technologies to ensure the most efficient utilization of all sources of water. Such an approach is targeted to enhance community ownership. But as the Special Rapporteur said, "participatory processes cost money and take time." As such, we call on our development partners to continue to support such initiatives.
This year, the Government has made strong steps to overcome the complex hydrogeological challenges that we face. The Government along with International partners has funded the development and implementation of integrated water resources management in an effort to provide reliable, safe and equitable access to water for our islands communities. We have welcomed the successful installation of new desalination plant which runs by utilising waste heat, a technology which allows us to address the challenges of access to safe water with our fervent commitment to the environment in mind. Island communities active involvement and participation is essential in management of these new systems.
I ask the Special Rapporteur the following: Do you see a role for community participation, not just in finding adaptive solutions, but also in tackling the root causes of water stress and scarcity? Water rights require mitigation action on climate change. How can opportunities be created at the international level for more meaningful participation by the people most affected by climate change impacts?